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Democrats voted down a $1.1 billion piece of legislation to combat the Zika virus after Republicans included language that would have prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving funds, marking the third time they have blocked such efforts.
The legislation funding Zika virus containment and prevention and part of a spending bill for veterans affairs was a ruse, according to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who said on the Senate floor:
“Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the Confederate flag. Can’t make that stuff up — that’s really the truth — than protecting women and babies from this awful virus.”
In a meeting with reporters earlier Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) echoed Democrats' disapproval of the Planned Parenthood language, which he called “poison pills” that Republicans know President Barack Obama would never sign into law.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dismissed such claims that Republicans had ulterior motives by ensuring the bill contained language to restrict efforts by Planned Parenthood.
Speaking on the Senate floor prior to the vote, McConnell said:
“Our colleagues across the aisle can point to a series of partisan excuses, but the bottom line is this: there is no good explanation for blocking these public health and national security funding bills.”
Despite McConnell’s insistence that the barring of Planned Parenthood from using the Zika funds is not of partisan nature, other Senate Republicans, such as Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) hinted at scrapping the language, telling McClatchy that “for this to get done, that language just may have to go away.”
“But both sides will declare some level of victory and there’s probably other places where that money would be better spent right now anyway, based on where we are at this moment with vaccines as well as tests,” Blunt said.